Friday, November 7, 2014

No, Not All Women

Feminism seems to be the new hot topic, what with Beyonce and #YesAllWomen and all.  As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, this is super exciting.  Except, well, I feel like opinions are being forced upon me.  No, not all women.  We want to stop negative stereotypes against women, or having people assume things about us because of the way we act/dress/etc, right?  Then stop putting words in my mouth and stop assuming all women have the same experiences.

When I was a teenager, I figured I must be ugly or something because girls would always talk about being catcalled or having guys whistle at them as they walked places.  I walked all over the place, and I think I had someone whistle at me from their car twice in as far back as I can remember.  Hell, in the past year I've gone running outside in my sports bra, and I've only had somebody yell from their car once.  Oh wait, and they were yelling at Joe that he had a "nice fro."  It had nothing to do with me.  I don't get hit on in bars.  I have never once had a man (or anyone, besides a photographer) tell me to smile.  Sometimes I'm still concinved that I'm just too unattractive to warrant any attention.  Either that or I have "resting bitch face."

I guess there's the fact that I don't like walking alone at night.  But I'm more concerned about getting mugged than being raped.  And I'm not even that concerned, because when I police alerts about muggings, it generally tends to be male victims.  Besides, Ann Arbor is actually a pretty safe town so as long as you're not stupid (man or woman), there isn't much to worry about.  I just tend to be paranoid about stupid things.  For example, I won't flip off a driver (man or woman) no matter how much they suck at driving/piss me off, because I'm irrationally convinced that they'll rear end me or whip out a shotgun.

BTW, I don't think it's blaming the victim for rape when you warn women to not drink too much or to walk in groups or to carry pepper spray or whatever.  It's being safe, and I think they should be warning men of the same things.  It's different when you're saying "well with that outfit, you were asking for it," but that's a very, very different story.

Even without the unwanted attention or the constant fear of being raped, I should still be discriminated against every day as a female chemist, right?  Except I'm not.  I get paid the same as any male grad student in my program, and I've been given a ton of really cool projects to work on.  My gender has come up in conversation only twice.  Once, when my boss mentioned most of his female students have a female professor on their committee.  My committee is all male professors.  I said, "eh, doesn't matter to me."  I picked my committee based on who would be the most useful to my work.  The other time was when I mentioned that I couldn't work with certain chemicals (ie testosterone) because it's not safe for women.  Sorry, I'm not risking my reproductive health for the sake of science.  But that's not something I'd consider "discrimination."  It's just a fundamental physiological difference between men and women.

Ok, so maybe I'm just lucky.  Maybe I've only lived in towns where there isn't much gender discrimination.  Maybe I'm just blissfully ignorant and I've actually been discriminated against a ton without realizing it.  I mean, I get it.  There's a lot of stuff out there happening to women that shouldn't be.  As a society, we have made a ton of progress from where we were before, and yet we still "can't" have a female president because she'd be "too emotional" to make sound decisions.  Especially during that time of the month!  So yes, I agree that feminism is important.  Yes, I agree we still have a lot of room for improvements.

But here's a thought.  Why is it ok to tell our young daughters they can choose whether or not they want to shave, but nobody thinks to tell our young sons that they have that choice too?  There's so much fighting to make it ok for women to like/do non-traditionally "girly" things, but what about the men who like/do nontraditionally "manly" things?  I know women are the ones who have been discriminated against historically, but that doesn't mean life is perfect for men either.  That's why it angers me so much to see "feminists" trying to bring down men.  To me, it should be about bringing women up.  Treat man and woman as equals, and make life better for everyone as a whole. 

Though it should be noted, as I said before, there are fundamental differences between man and woman.  Men do tend to be stronger, for example.  So in a job where strength is required to do your job adequately, I'd rather have strict requirements that end up disqualifying most women than lowering the cutoff so women who can't actually perform the required tasks can still be hired...

I don't know if I'm making any sense at this point.  I just don't want people to assume I'm a "kill all men" crazy feminist just because I rarely shave my legs.  Nope, I just don't shave much because I'm lazy.  And I wear pants all the time as a chemist.  Same with the time I cut my hair mega short.  Not trying to make a political statement, just doing what I do.